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News

Clashes in northern Lebanon as Syrian conflict spills over

There has been fighting in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between Sunni and Alawite communities. The conflict in neighboring Syria has exacerbated tensions between the groups.

At least four people have been killed in renewed fighting between gunmen from Tripoli's Sunni district of Bab el-Tebbaneh and fighters in the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.

Tensions between the two sides go back decades, but have been worsened by the war in Syria, where Alawite president Bashar al-Assad is battling a Sunni-led uprising. Each side accuses the other of using Tripoli as a base for sending fighters in and out of Syria. Tripoli is just 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Syrian border.

Lebanon's army has also come under fire recently in the city, after being deployed to calm tensions. The AFP news agency reported that one soldier was wounded overnight after an explosive device detonated while the army was patrolling the city.

Political deadlock ends

On Thursday, Lebanon's parliament gave a newly-formed cabinet a vote of confidence, ending almost 12 months of political impasse during which the country has been further pulled into the Syrian conflict.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government, in power since February, received 96 votes out of 101 lawmakers who attended. His 24-person cabinet includes members of a Western-backed coalition, as well as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.

The approval of the cabinet has raised hopes that a presidential poll can be held before May, when incumbent Michel Suleiman's mandate expires. Lebanon is also seeking to arrange parliamentary elections that were postponed last year due to the political deadlock.

jr/msh (Reuters, AFP)